I've been doing fantasy football since 2007, and regularly since 2012, usually in two leagues. So today's draft was the 9th fantasy draft I've done all time. In the previous drafts, I've averaged about 2-4 "upsets" per draft: times when the player I was targeting and really hoping for just didn't quite make it to my pick where I had him targeted. I don't think I've ever had fewer than 2 of them in any draft.
Well today, for the first time ever, I got the entire way through a draft without having a single upset. It's even more remarkable than usual because I was picking late in a 12 man league, and had an 18 pick gap every other round. Several times, a top player I had with 18 picks to go made it all the way to my pick. I could hardly believe my luck.
I don't think this is the best draft I've ever had, since the current league I play in is very competitive and I've had far better drafts in less competitive leagues. That said, here's how the draft broke down for me. 12 man standard:
1. (10) RB Adrian Peterson
2. (15) RB Le'Veon Bell
3. (34) WR Demaryius Thomas
4. (39) WR Eric Decker
5. (58) TE Delanie Walker
6. (63) QB Tom Brady
7. (82) WR Michael Crabtree
8. (87) DEF Arizona
9. (106) RB DeAngelo Williams
10. (111) RB Chris Ivory
11. (130) K Steven Hauschka
12. (135) QB Dak Prescott
13. (154) WR Steve Smith Sr.
14. (159) RB Jerick McKinnon
15. (178) RB Charcandrick West
QB Tom Brady
WR Demaryius Thomas
WR Eric Decker
WR Michael Crabtree
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Le'Veon Bell
TE Delanie Walker
K Steven Hauschka
BN Dak Prescott
BN Steve Smith Sr.
BN Chris Ivory
BN DeAngelo Williams
BN Jerick McKinnon
BN Charcandrick West
With Minnesota pulling a trade for Bradford, it's actually possible that they may have upgraded their QB spot over what Bridgewater was projected to give them. Of course, Bradford will be coming in cold, which means A LOT of action for AP early in the season. Additionally, the Vikings play one of the league's easiest schedules. If AP stays healthy, he could be looking at well over 300 rushes this season. I realize that his age is a risk, but I was dumbfounded that he made it to 10th overall, especially in light of the Bradford news.
With Bell, I see him as being the closest thing in the current NFL to Shaun Alexander. He may not have monster talent to match his monster stats, but he is a great fit for his offense and plays behind a terrific OL. He has a savvy QB who helps audible into good running situations. Bell is a risk because he is one doobie away from a season killing suspension, but with Bell being a UFA after this season I have to believe he'll be motivated enough to avoid the chronic, at least until he gets his money. Also, even if Bell doesn't play, the Steelers are a lock for a top 10 fantasy rusher with DeAngelo Williams, who I was fortunate enough to get without reaching.
Demaryius isn't the monster he used to be, but even with horrible QB play last year he was still a fringe #1 fantasy WR. He can still abuse average NFL corners.
I was so thrilled to get Eric Decker in the 4th. In about half my pre-draft simulations, he wasn't making it to me this late. It was a nervous wait and I was pumped when he made it to me. Decker has had 1000+ yards and 10+ TDs in three of his past four seasons, and the only one he didn't achieve those numbers on was the year he had to endure Geno Smith. And even in that year, Decker was still a borderline starter.
Any time a TE is the top producer on an offense, he's a player worth targeting. Tennessee's offense has changed quite a lot this offseason, mostly for the better. I don't know if Walker can match last year's numbers but he'll still be Mariota's #1 target. I wouldn't call him a steal or anything, but I do think he's undervalued and he quietly tied Greg Olsen for fantasy scoring last season. It's always nice to have an impact TE these days, as there are so few of them. It helped that the RB/WR options at this point were bleak, we're talking 30 pick ADP reach to take the next WR/RB on my board.
The next pick came 4 choices later, and the scenario was the same. Do I reach hard for a third receiver or third RB, or take the best player available? This has happened in every mock as well, there's always a bit of a lull in the value of these picks from picks 45 through 75, especially with everyone going completely insane at WR this year. In the end, I figured this was my shot to take Tom Brady and enjoy his revenge tour, because knowing some of the other people in my league, he absolutely wasn't going to last another 18 picks until my next selection. That plus reaching 30 picks by ADP for need at WR just isn't something that sits well with me.
The seventh round was the toughest round. My mid-round steals at WR all get reached for early and were gone, and I still needed one more starting WR. By this point, the only receiver left that I had a 'startable' grade on was Michael Crabtree, and I felt very blessed that he made it to me given the circumstances. However, I also really wanted to take Arizona's defense here as the run on defenses had just begun and it seemed likely that Arizona (my favorite fantasy defense this year) wouldn't last another 4 picks. So I had to make a really tough choice. Ultimately, the insane dropoff at WR after Crabtree forced me to take him, even though I fully expected to lose Arizona's defense. I was very happy with the Crabtree pick, but a bit sad thinking about what I was giving up. It was a pick I simply had to make to ensure I didn't have a gaping hole on my roster in week 1.
We like to make fun of Crabtree around here, but he's emerged in Oakland as a high end #2 WR in an offense that passes fairly often. He's also a fairly consistent fantasy performer week to week. Ideally I view him as a high end backup, though Crabtree did finish 18th in fantasy scoring last season, making him a mid-range #2 fantasy WR in 2015. Oakland paid him too, showing that they believe in him long term.
The eight round was my favorite pick. Arizona's defense made it to me. I thought I lost them for sure when I took Crabtree, but I got lucky and they made it to my next pick.
The ninth round was similar to the seventh. Do I take Ivory or Deangelo? Ultimately, the value of Deangelo as a handcuff and also as a weeks 1-3 starter won out, but I am pretty high on Ivory right now and consider him one of the steals of the mid-rounds. It was tough.
In the tenth, Ivory somehow made it to me. He looked great last year and he's looked terrific for the Jags in the preseason. He just seems like a natural fit on an offense that is really going places. I think people are always scared away by free agent running backs, as they should be, and Ivory is injury prone, but this guy has a very good chance at finishing top 10 at RB if he stays decently healthy.
In the 11th, I still only had 3 WRs, and I was honestly debating just starting the year with three since the remaining options by this point were waiver-wire level players. I'm a fan of taking a kicker a little early if you can get one of the two elite ones (Gostkowski and Hauschka) because they are generally worth 20-40 points more than the 12th best kicker over the course of a season. Plus, there is something nice about having consistency at kicker and not having to potentially blow waiver priority on them week to week. It helps that Hauschka was drafted lower than his ADP, whereas the alternate picks all felt like reaches who could be had much later.
In the 12th, I figured it was time to start looking for Tom Brady's partner at QB before the second run on QBs was over. My original plan was to take Derek Carr, and Carr WAS available, but just to be fun I took a chance on Dak Prescott. The Cowboys play an easy schedule this year and their first four games that I'd need Prescott to start are NYG, @WAS, CHI, and @SF. Washington could maybe be a tough game, but the rest should be amazing for fantasy purposes. If Prescott continues his breakout, he'll be a nice sub for Brady in week 15 (the 2nd fantasy playoff game) when Brady travels to Denver and the Cowboys host the Bucs.
Now the draft is nearly over, and it's kind of in "Mr. Irrelevant" territory as most players drafted here will hit waivers at some point. I was okay with starting the year with three WRs if need be since I trust my starting three. But just in case, I figured I'd take a gamble on Steve Smith, because if Smith is going to be any good in 2016 at all, we'll know it in the first three games. If he stinks, I'll work my waiver wire magic. Last year I acquired three WRs off waivers who finished top 30 in fantasy.
Im not big on McKinnon's talent, but he does run pretty fast and he'd get a lot of carries if AP goes down. If he started all season he'd probably be a top 20 fantasy RB just because of his situation. I figured I might as well get him as a handcuff this late.
With my last pick, I had to choose between Charcandrick West and the recently injured Kenneth Dixon. With the surprise cut of J-Force there is reason to be excited about Dixon's breakout potential, however his MCL injury is the kind that is hard to evaluate and might keep him out for longer than a month if he rehabs poorly. And even if he is back and 100% in only a month, he'd still be at the very bottom of Baltimore's crowded depth chart at RB. He is their most talented back, but he's got a long road ahead of him to earn those #1 reps. I'll probably have Dixon on my roster sometime later this year, it just won't be right now. Dixon went undrafted and is currently a free agent.
Charcandrick West is really the 2b to Spencer Ware's 2a. It wouldn't even shock me if West scored 10 fantasy points in week one, as Charles is expected to sit and West might see enough carries to find the end zone. Like the Steve Smith pick, I feel like we'll have a good feel for West's value after 3 games, and by then he'll either be a keeper or he'll be an easy cut for the waiver-wire add du jour.